'Let’s meet at around 10am on Saturday morning and it should only take a few hours to get there, plenty of time to settle in, warm up and get prepared for the game.' Up and down the country grassroots rugby clubs will be preparing for their upcoming games, working out the logistics that’ll allow them to get there with plenty of time for preparation. There’ll be set times for players to arrive at home games (they’re the easy ones) whilst away games cause rather a bit more planning and preparation.
Away fixtures are a big financial cost not only to the club but the players also; it takes a big chunk out of there weekends, especially if your team is travelling some distance. However, they’re great opportunities for squad bonding and creating memories as a team.
Although elemnts such as transportation and communication are easier and roads and journeys are much more accessible, how much has really changed when it comes to away games travel?
“So who is going to get us to the game on Saturday? We have no form of transport and it’s an important fixture, last time we travelled it was disastrous!” This tends to be a regular occurrence for many rugby clubs due to a lack of communication and planning…
Let’s rewind; The year is 1920 and transport was not an easy thing to arrange in those days, but one team had a plan of action and so begins a true story.
Chapman had been very keen on his rugby and was a good player but opportunities to play in the 1st team didn’t materialise that often. Thus, when he was asked by the club if he fancied driving the team to an away game he replied, 'yes of course,' though he specified that part of the deal would mean he had to play as well! He worked for a local coach company and was a man of good value; one who was trustworthy and would not let you down.
The offer was accepted by the club and so on the Saturday morning he turned up on time with his open-top coach. Plenty of blankets were a must and they prayed that it didn’t rain. No matter it was transport and they would all travel together and bond along the way.
The journey there went as well as could be expected and the game itself was won and Chapman not only played, but made a lasting impression. It was the return journey on which memories and lasting friendship were made. The coach stopped constantly at the many pubs, along the way, to enjoy the Ale on offer, which of course delayed the return journey, but no matter, this was the part of rugby they all loved.
As darkness fell the roads became narrow and treacherous. It was decided that someone would have to walk in front with a lantern and another would have to jump out and push to maneuverer the inclines occurred along the way….all part of the experience.
So much fun was had that many looked forward to the away games and the player/driver went on to not only become a player of great prominence for his local club, but captain also.
When we fast forward to the modern day how much has really changed? We may have more luxury in our transportation now, but that camaraderie created is still very much in existence to this day. Many clubs still travel by coach and it’s this journey that produces much of the banter and stories.
The RFU endeavours to keep teams travel distance to a minimum now, with the formation of new league systems, but even still this has a large part of the budget for clubs, who often can't afford such outlay. Additionally, we all lead such busy lives and the time taken out with travel is just one of the reason players leave the game, especially when it can have a big impact on families and life in general. One of the enjoyable aspects is that supporters are sometimes allowed to travel with players and this can often help with recovering some of the expenditure of hiring a coach.
No matter whether you are playing in North/South or in Channel Islands, it’s tough and the logistics have to be sorted by someone well in advance. That person devotes much of his/her time to make sure that travel is arranged and they truly are unsung heroes of not only the clubs, but the game as a whole. Clubs of most sizes rely on these volunteers, and without them, our rugby travels would be a bit like riding a bike when the chain keeps coming off.